Ewell Plaza Restrooms

The public restrooms in Ewell Plaza are seen on Thursday, May 25, 2023. The restrooms are located in a breezway that connects the plaza at 123 N. Queen St. to North Christian Street.

The Lancaster Parking Authority’s executive director said limiting access to public restrooms in Ewell Plaza could be an option for dealing with ongoing vandalism.

Larry Cohen said the vandalism and illegal activity have been problems since the downtown Lancaster plaza at 123 N. Queen St. opened to the public in October. The number of people congregating in the plaza has increased since the city closed Binns Park earlier this month, but Cohen said the impact on the bathrooms is still undetermined. Binns Park is located at 120 N. Queen St., directly across the street from Ewell Plaza.

“It’s putting stress on the businesses; it’s putting stress on the public bathroom. We’re in conversations with the city on how that is going to be handled moving forward,” Cohen said Thursday.

The restrooms on the ground floor of the authority’s Christian Street Garage in a breezeway connecting the plaza to North Christian Street are maintained by the Downtown Improvement District under a contract with the city.

Cohen declined to specify the types of vandalism and referred comments to the Downtown Improvement District Authority. The authority’s executive director, David Aichele, did not return a call requesting comment.

A city spokesperson said Mayor Danene Sorace was not available for comment Thursday afternoon.

Cohen said he recommended adding cameras and signs that warn of penalties for anyone caught breaking the law in the restrooms.

During a parking authority board meeting on Thursday, Cohen said the restrooms’ hours, currently 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., should be reevaluated in light of the June opening of the Lancaster Public Library’s new location on Ewell Plaza. The library’s previous location at 125 N. Duke St. closed in April to transfer books and other materials to the new location.

Cohen said one option would be closing the restrooms at all other times except during special events; however, after the meeting, he said that discussions regarding restroom hours are ongoing, and no decisions have been made.

“They could be the same hours, they could be extended hours, they could be shorter hours,” Cohen said. “I don’t have that answer yet.”

A library spokesperson did not return an email asking whether the new library’s restrooms would be open to the public. The library had issues with its restrooms at its North Duke Street location. In 2014, to prevent vandalism, patrons had to use their library cards to borrow a key to access the restrooms.

There are a limited number of public restrooms in downtown Lancaster. Starbucks, which has a store next to the plaza at 101 N. Queen St., adopted an open restrooms policy in 2018.

The Downtown Investment District currently provides staffing at the plaza eight to 10 hours per day year round, including maintaining the restrooms.

Cohen says it is a shared responsibility to maintain Ewell Plaza, the breezeway and restrooms between all the stakeholders — including businesses and the management of 101NQ, the site of the former Bulova building at 101 N. Queen St. that is now a mix of retail, offices and residences. Tenants at 101NQ include Steinman Communications, LNP | LancasterOnline, Cargas, Starbucks and residential condominiums.

“It’s not just a bathroom issue, it’s a whole plaza issue of securing and maintaining,” Cohen said.

Cohen said he plans to update the parking authority’s board at its next meeting at 8 a.m. June 22 at 30 W. Orange St. in Lancaster city.

Correction: This article has been updated. The City of Lancaster has closed Binns Park for a renovation project. A previous version misstated who is overseeing the project. 

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